Big Families: Abundant in Love… and Illness


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We have had so much illness come through our house these last couple of years. The kiddos missed lots of school. We started to feel like freaks by the amount of events we could not attend. For a time, life was bleak.

House projects went unfinished. We spent thousands of dollars on cleaning supplies, doctor visits and medicine. We forgot what it was like to be and feel healthy on a holiday or weekend… or ever.

We scrutinized our nutrition, cleaning routines and doubled down on our children’s hygiene habits.

We still got sick a lot.



Ever notice how NO ONE seems to come down with illness at the same time? It takes an average of 1.5 to 2 weeks for it to travel through our whole family. Unless you all have food poisoning. Then it seems to be instantaneous!

One of my theories as to why we were sick so often was having 3 children in a school environment; one being a Kindergartner. Germs just seem to love them!

Recently, I came across The BIG LoVE Study led by the University of Utah School of Medicine. It is a very interesting read for anyone growing a family.

Using modern diagnostics, they studied 26 families (106 members; 3 births occurred during study) in a Utah community over a period of one year. Family sizes ranged from those with 0 to 6 children. Families of our size (5 children) had viral illnesses 65% of the year, families with 4 children were ill 58% of the year, and families with 6 children were ill 87% of the year!

In contrast, families with 0 children were only ill 7% of the year, whereas, those with only 1 child were sick 35% of the year. 

This study suggests that by adding a second child you stand to be ill 56% of the year.

Children under 5 were found to be infected with respiratory illness 50% of the year. “When infected, they were 1.5 times more likely to have symptoms, including severe symptoms like wheezing and fever.”

Therefore, if you have little ones in the house you are going to be sick a lot more often, especially when you have 4 or more children. I know, not very earth-shattering news!

For those parents with a larger family that have had a lot of illness lately it is heartening to know you are not alone

It appears that they plan on studying larger and more diverse populations. I look forward to more research involving a larger demographic. You can read more about The BIG LoVE study at the links below:

Viruses Thrive In Big Families, In Sickness and In HealthUniversity of Utah Health Care. Web. 4 Aug. 2015.

Byington CL, Ampofo K, Stockmann C, Adler FR, Herbener A, Miller T, Sheng X, Blaschke AJ, Crisp R, Pavia AT. “Community Surveillance of Respiratory Viruses Among Families in the Utah Better Identification of Germs-Longitudinal Viral Epidemiology (BIG-LoVE) Study.” Clinical Infectious Diseases 15 Oct. 2015 61(8): 1217-24. Web. 4 Aug. 2015.


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